Fast Five: Actors who left TV shows that were still going strong

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It's been widely reported that a major character is leaving "Downton Abbey" at a time the PBS Masterpiece Classic series has become an Emmy-nominated hit. Here are five other actors who left while their TV series were hot, and how their careers fared:

David Caruso, "NYPD Blue": After breaking out as smouldering John Kelly in the show's first season and several episodes of season two, he left to pursue big-screen stardom. The show lasted more than a decade, while Mr. Caruso never found his movie footing and returned to TV on "CSI: Miami."

Suzanne Somers, "Three's Company": She left in a money dispute after 89 episodes, and the show went on to double that number. Ms. Somers went on to more TV, a Las Vegas act and Thigh Master fame.

Shelley Long, "Cheers": After Sam and Diane got together, Ms. Long broke up the gang. She went on to play Carol Brady in two "Brady Bunch" movies and most recently has a recurring role on ABC's "Modern Family."

Farrah Fawcett, "Charlie's Angels": The iconic poster girl in a red bathing suit, who told Joe Namath to "Take it off!" in a shaving commercial, left "Angels" after one season. Marriages to Lee Majors and Ryan O'Neal kept her in the public eye, and she went on to serious roles, including the acclaimed "Burning Bed." She made several attempts at TV comebacks before she was stricken with cancer. and died in 2009.

McLean Stevenson, "M• A• S• H": The late actor famously departed the Korean War TV series when his character died in a plane crash as he was flying home. He went on to several one-season-and-gone TV series. He died in 1996.

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